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Quality makes a difference.  

Other Ales

Wow!...Where to begin?...Do we dive right in with a strong ale; a Barleywine or an Old Ale? Or do we start off light with a lager-like Cream Ale or Blond. Maybe we look to the German ales, the delicate Kölsch or the amber Altbier. But then the Brown Ales, the English and American varieties, gently catch our attention, while the Irish Red and the Scottish ales speak up with brash bluster and demand to be tasted. Then there are all of the specialty beers, those unique creations of the brewer’s imagination that defy easy categorization...Where to begin?

I say let’s cast discretion to the wind and just grab a bottle off the shelf. Leap right in and let ourselves be led by the fancy of our taste buds and the whims of our mood. It’s beer. How can we go wrong?

Enough talk. Let’s taste some beer.


  St. Peter's Winter Ale  
Winter Ale
St. Peter's Brewery
Bungay, Suffolk, England
Style: Old Ale

Aroma: Bread and chocolate. Hints of dark fruit and floral hops.
Appearance: Dark ruby read. Looks black in the glass. Big, creamy, beige head that lasted a long time.
Flavor: Caramel and molasses are the dominant flavors at first, with nice background roasted malt bitterness and oat-like breadiness. Chocolate and plum flavors with characteristic English yeast fruitiness come in as the beer warms. Bitterness is moderately high with an assertive bite at the onset like a good bitter. Floral hop flavors with hints of mint and anise.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation. Light alcohol warming.
Overall Impression: A darker and more assertively roasty version of the classic English old ale. Like a strong ESB or a fruity brown ale. Beautifully balanced and drinkable. They call it a “classic winter ale”, but this would work well any time of year. Great for traditional holiday fare.

  Anchor Christmas Ale 2009  
Our Special Ale 2009 (Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company
San Francisco, California
Style: Specialty Ale

Aroma: munich malt melanoidins and dark fruits. Cherries, prunes and raisins. Hints of chocolate and roast in the background. Gingerbread spiciness. Nutmeg & allspice.
Appearance: Jewel-like ruby red and clear. Creamy tan head, formed well but didn’t stick around too long.
Flavor: bread crust toastiness and nice fruit, cherry raisins, and plums, same hints of chocolate and roast from the aroma, notes of nutmeg, allspice and ginger. Perhaps some spruce. Fairly high bitterness, but little hop flavor. Finish is dry but lingers with tootsie-roll chocolate with nutmeg and allspice. Complex. There’s a lot happening here. Cola-like. Is that a hint of smoke I taste?
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body, sparkling,
Overall Impression: Very nice. Light and crisp. Complex. Balanced. Spicing is pronounced, but not overwhelming. Malt is delicate and well articulated. Beautiful dark fruits round it all out. Feels like a high alcohol beer without the heaviness and headache that comes with one.

  Undercover Shutdown Ale  
Undercover Shutdown
Lagunitas Brewing Company
Petaluma, California
Style: Imperial Mild Ale

Aroma: Rich grainy and caramel malt with hints of roast and toast. Resinous hops are noticeable but the malt is king. Light orange citrus fruit.
Appearance: Deep amber and clear. Low off-white head that persisted for a bit and left lace on the glass.
Flavor: The flavor follows the aroma except that the hops are more prominent. The malt is super rich with caramel, toast, and just hints of roast in the background. Grassy resinous hops assert themselves with bracing bitterness at the start, but fade to let the malt take over. Some pleasant fruitiness. Alcohol is apparent and maybe a touch on the hot side. Finish is clean with long lingering malt. Crisp and dry for such a big beer. There is a spiciness to this that suggests rye, but neither the bottle nor the website mentions it.
Mouthfeel: Warming alcohol. Medium-high body is lighter than expected. Carbonation is low.
Overall Impression: Nicely crisp and clean for such a big beer. Dry, not overly sweet like some barleywines. I like the hint of roast and toast that adds some complexity to what could be an ordinary American barleywine.

  Jewbelation 11  
He'brew Jewbelation 11
Shamltz Brewing Company
San Francisco, California
Style: Specialty Ale

Aroma: Hugely complex aromatics. Bittersweet chocolate malt character, like chocolate chip cookies with big dark-chocolate chunks. This is balanced by intense molasses aromas with hints of tobacco and strong black licorice (the good German kind). Alcohol is apparent. On top of this throw in some spice, gingerbread, raisins, and a hint of soy sauce. Only flaw was a slight cardboard oxidation.
Appearance: Black as it gets. Big creamy tan head that dissipates quickly but remains as mist on the surface. This beer has legs.
Flavor: Burnt sugar and molasses dominate with some soy sauce and a dry cookie-like chocolate. Alcohol is noticeable but not hot. Nice spice cake background of anise, cinnamon, ginger, figs, and raisings. Medium-high bitterness and resinous piney hop flavor balance the molasses sweetness. Detected some papery oxidation. Well attenuated and drinkable for 11% ABV with a dry finish that lingers forever on burnt sugar, chocolate cookies, and spices.
Mouthfeel: Full bodied but well attenuated and easy drinking. Medium carbonation. Alcohol that warms all the way down without being hot.
Overall Impression: This is not a subtle beer. It knocks you over the head with flavor, but in a good way. The intensity is matched by complexity. The alcohol is perhaps a bit too strong, covering up some of the other rich flavors. I’m craving a chocolate lava cake to go with this one.

  Tyranena Rocky's Revenge  
Rocky's Revenge
Tyranena Brewing Company
Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged American Brown Ale

Aroma: Smells of toasted bread malt and caramel malt with oak, vanilla, and very light bourbon. Hints of chocolate brownies.
Appearance: Dark mahogany with ruby tones. Brilliantly clear. The small, creamy, off-white head dissipated quickly leaving plenty of lace on the glass.
Flavor: Roasted malt is dominant at first with underlying notes of toast and caramel. This is overtaken mid-palate by an assertive tannic oak with vanilla and whisky floating on top. Medium bitterness and a light floral hop character. The finish is dry lingering on roasted coffee, with the oak tannins leaving a puckering sensation.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with medium-low carbonation. Some astringency in the finish from the oak.
Overall Impression: The oak character in this batch seems a bit harsh and overstated, overshadowing the other flavors of the beer. On the whole it seems a bit unformed or confused. I am missing some of the rich, chocolate/vanilla creaminess that has made this beer such a pleasure to me in earlier samplings. That said it is still a beer worth seeking out.

  Pinkus Organic Münster Alt  
Pinkus Organic Münster Alt
Brauerei Pinkus Müller
Münster, Germany
Style: Münster Altbier

Aroma: Saltine and bread crust malt with prominent fruity notes of apricot and pear. Slight spicy phenolic character and hints of noble hop. A bit of cardboard oxidation. May be an old bottle.
Appearance: Deep golden and hazy with a large, persistent, rocky, white head. Leaves plenty of lace on glass.
Flavor: The beginning, middle, and end of this beer is dominated by fruit, canned apricots and pears with some tart green apple notes. Grainy, saltine cracker malt lies underneath. A bit vinous with a a touch of lactic sourness and black pepper. Medium hop bitterness with very light spicy noble hop flavor. The finish is sweet, a bit like drinking the syrup from the canned fruit. A kind of flabbiness in the flavor along with some cardboard oxidation and a slight cabbage-like vegetal character would suggest that this was an old bottle.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with a kind of syrupy quality that keeps it from being light. Medium-low carbonation. A bit more spritz would help cut the syrup.
Overall Impression: This beer is a perfect argument for proper handling of beers and removal of old product from store shelves. The lovely fruit, cracker malt, and delicate lactic sourness hint at a great beer, unlike anything else I have tried. But these qualities were marred by the cardboard and cabbage flavors that suggest its age and/or poor handling. I would like to try it again with a fresher example.

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